In Minnesota, superintendents die not on hills but on massive, shifting drifts of snow.
If they’re too quick to close schools, families strapped for child care — or facing another day of indoor “fun” — suffer. If they hold back and ice or whiteouts trap kids on buses, that’s a different kind of misery-making.
In December, Rochester Public Schools Superintendent Kent Pekel made fun of his first wrong school-closure call of the season in a Twitter video that ended up going viral.
Standing in the dry, sunny parking lots of a series of shuttered schools, he mocked himself: “Certainly the worst conditions that have ever existed in Rochester history — maybe in American history.”
Update on the worst snow day ever pic.twitter.com/ayMRP6FOMv— Kent Pekel (@KentPekel) December 22, 2022
“I could never have made it out here to Bamber Valley Elementary School in these terrible road conditions if I didn’t have an incredibly powerful all-terrain vehicle like my Kia Optima,” Pekel proclaimed to his phone camera. “If you don’t have an amped-up car like mine, don’t go out. You’re never going to make it.”
Gantlet thrown down, students have spent the rest of the winter tapping their critical thinking and creative writing skills to persuade Pekel to call snow days.
Earlier this week, the superintendent singled out an entreaty from Fahad A. as one of the year’s best.
One of the best student snow day requests yet!!! pic.twitter.com/9b4AwltoHD— Kent Pekel (@KentPekel) February 21, 2023
Runners-up so far this school year include an argument that the district’s 17,400 students are becoming accustomed to sleeping in on Thursdays, which one claimed have been especially snow-prone;
Not the strongest argument I’ve received from a student for a snow day, but you’ve gotta give him points for creativity. pic.twitter.com/YmCgehbFAV— Kent Pekel (@KentPekel) January 18, 2023
That stressed-out teachers need the extra rest;
And that homebound pupils will use the day to catch up.
The students of Rochester are very pragmatic. pic.twitter.com/hrRWxIfJxY— Kent Pekel (@KentPekel) January 4, 2023
There was a variation on the classic “uphill both ways” lament …
The emails from students advising a snow day are already coming in hot and heavy and not a flake has fallen. I love how proactive and persuasive the students of @RPS535 can be. pic.twitter.com/pbWPOOFzWy— Kent Pekel (@KentPekel) December 9, 2022
…and outright flattery.
Big thanks to Jack in Ms. Oie’s graphic arts class at Mayo HS for making me into a superhero for a class project — even if my only superpower is calling snow days! pic.twitter.com/TyGPwLYUvA— Kent Pekel (@KentPekel) February 15, 2023
But not everybody was amused.
Here you have the superintendent of Rochester schools posting an incredibly uninformed video. Yesterday was always supposed to be the transition day before winds got bad last night into today. This is why it’s very important to pay close attention to the actual forecast details. https://t.co/2pJJlQwZ3Z— Bo Cole (@BoKnowsWeather) December 23, 2022
The superintendent did not miss a beat, replying to a thread of armchair meteorologists that he had not “thrown any [forecasters] under the proverbial school buses we are all trying to keep on the road.”
An amazing gift from one of our amazing teachers was waiting for me in my office this morning. Calling snow days will be much more accurate using this crystal ball. Thank you Lori Walski!!! pic.twitter.com/RZzZEjtmB2— Kent Pekel (@KentPekel) January 10, 2023
As it turns out, how many inches are enough to justify a snow day is a math problem with no right answer.